Wednesday, March 12, 2014

There Must Be a Common Thread Here

Three links tonight with a common thread and I refuse to acknowledge any fault if I can't identify what that common thread might be.

One, "clans," as anatomized by Marc S. Weiner in describing his new book, which I haven't heard of until today  but now hope to read.  Put it in context: we all grew up on de Tocqueville, arguing that it is "intermediate institutions"--families, communities, churches, voluntary societies and suchlike that provide the ligaments of civic life.  Without these intermediate institutions we would all stand naked before the raw power of the leviathan.  Weiner's argument can be read as a response and rebuttal to de Tocqueville.  It is the state that guarantees our freedom, he argues, and the enemy of that freedom is the clan.  

Why the clan?  In Weiner's telling, the norm of the clan is the clan itself.  Preserving the honor of the clan trumps liberty.   If, for example (my example) our cousin has an improper sexual relationship, why then it is quite right to kill her because she has brought dishonor on the clan.  

It;s a refreshing argument, this sketch of "statist libertarianism, and it is refreshing to see it taken seriously over at the libertarian mother church, the Cato Institute.  Try tying it together (though I don't know how) with Suzanne Berger's Boston Review piece headed "How Finance Gutted Manufacturing.,"  The title is a bit of a stretch but the piece itself is a fascinating threnody to old-fashioned vertical integration.  Or more precisely to an enterprise that understood itself as woven into the fabric of its community and whose managers (but not its outside investors) wanted it to stay that way.  She fringes upon, though the does not specifically mention, the hallowed Coasean debate about "command" versus "contract" in the enterprise, and gives a plausible account of how or why we might have lost something important by shifting away from command.  Some  interesting responses also, including an oddly wrong-headed piece by Dean Baker in which he talks about German owners being "stuck with" their workers, whereas it seems that German owners have come to understand their work force as an asset worth preserving.

And finally, Dave weighs in with a link to The Atlantic's piece on Angry Young Men. "Won't be news to Buce readers," he says.    He's right: I've talked before about the anarchic energy of, say, Sherman's veterans or the young bucks without steadying adult hands on the Polish-Ukranian frontier--or the very absence of young bucks as promoting pacific resolution and good public order in Switzerland.  And upper body strength and the need, or lack of need, therefore. Still not sure I see the connection but I suppose there is something here  about old-fashioned men's work and the state as guarantor of order and of marauding gangs as a form of clan.


Stephen Montsaroff said...

Regarding the clan, I think the term amoral familism is useful.

The New York Crank said...

Clan vs. State is a Chicken Vs. Egg situation, sort of.

If you accept The Crank's law (Power seeks those who seize it) then it all makes sense.

The Government has power that is kept in check by clans. The Clans have power that is kept in check by government. As long as the balance of power is more or less in balance, all is well. But either Government or Clans can sometimes seize power while the other is napping which leads to...I dunno, all hell breaking out.

Very Crankily Yours,
The New York Crank